Real Men Are "Rough Around the Edges"
- Thursday, December 18, 2008
Could single women be expecting too much of men? Here, the men speak out. ...
Just as women have their hot-button issues with single men, so too have men with women—namely that the Christian women they see around them “expect too much” of men and have ridiculously high standards, spiritually speaking.
As one man lamented in response to my online survey of Christian singles, “Lower your standards. I'm not the Apostle Paul! If I don't look like an evangelical, smell like an evangelical, have unattainable character and charisma, spend all my free time at church, have all my issues settled, have all my prayers answered, know Scripture inside out, love children ... good grief!” I could picture him throwing up his hands in defeat.
When I shared this finding with one Christian man I know who is still looking for a wife, he looked troubled. Could it be his peers, single men who profess faith in Christ, are intimidated by the standards they hear preached from the pulpit? Standards written about in popular books such as Wild at Heart and The Sacred Romance? Evidently so, but the answer is not for us singles to collectively lower our standards, but to prod each other on in the “race of faith”—and have grace for one another along the way.
“Christian women are just plain too picky, especially about finding a man who's spiritual enough,” said another man. “If they find themselves being pursued by a guy they genuinely think is a believer, whom they find reasonably attractive, and who they think would make a decent husband, they should just marry him. Instead, all the women who are still available seem to be holding out for some super-spiritual guy who wants to be an overseas missionary in a Third World country, and whom they feel some kind of amazing ‘click’ or ‘chemistry’ with.”
In defense of my own gender, of the single Christian women I know, most have very realistic spiritual expectations of the men they date and hope to marry. Yes, they long to find someone who shares their faith, but they know that men are humans too—fallible creatures who mess up sometimes and need grace as much as we do. If anything, the women I know err on the side of giving too much latitude to men, sometimes blurring the lines between someone who “believes in God” and a real believer. But that’s not what showed up in the responses from men who took my survey. Quite a few vented their frustration about too-high standards.
“Christian women have been fed a lot of misinformation about what actual men are like,” writes one disgruntled man. “Reality check: there are no white knights or heroes out there. We can't rescue you, sorry. And the ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ thing is a little weird. I am not saying you should lower your expectations. Rather, you need to readjust them. Just as many men need to realize that actual women are not like the airbrushed porn stars of their fantasies. I find that I enjoy the company of non-Christian women far more than that of most Christian women. I just don't think they have bought into the popular tripe about what a man is supposed to be (thank you Wild at Heart/Captivating). Real men are rough around the edges.”
Just what does the book Wild at Heart (by John Eldredge) say about men? The book’s marketing description on Amazon.com reads:
God designed men to be dangerous, says John Eldredge. Simply look at the dreams and desires written in the heart of every boy: To be a hero, to be a warrior, to live a life of adventure and risk. Sadly, most men abandon those dreams and desires—aided by a Christianity that feels like nothing more than pressure to be a “nice guy.” It is no wonder that many men avoid church, and those who go are often passive and bored to death…. Eldredge gives women a look inside the true heart of a man and gives men permission to be what God designed them to be—dangerous, passionate, alive, and free.
Perhaps it’s the “dangerous, passionate, alive, and free” label that seems like too tall an order for the average Christian male to fill, especially when they feel as if women expect (read: demand) this from them. In reading through the responses of men, I heard plenty of passion and expectations, but also world-weariness. Some seemed even more jaded than women on the state of single Christian America.
“Christians put unrealistic expectations on each other,” said one man in his early thirties who answered that he would like to be married someday if he meets the right person. “There seems to be this feeling that because you are a Christian you must be perfect or more normal than others. Fact is we are all human and imperfect so we need to accept that fact or else we will always be frustrated at being disappointed in our significant other.”
Unrealistic expectations—and modern singles’ propensity to have a checklist of requirements in their ideal mate—actually work against true love. If it looks like love, acts like love, and has the staying power of love, then it’s probably the real deal. “The dating scene is OK as far as it goes,” writes another man in my survey. “It's the progressing-to-marriage scene that's a problem. I wish women didn't feel they need a light shining down from heaven on a man and a voice booming ‘he’s the one’ in order to make a decision. My last girlfriend wouldn't marry me because she felt she wasn't getting a clear signal from God that I was ‘the one.’ It was incredibly frustrating and her breaking up with me broke my heart.” Somewhere out there, I can’t help but think there’s a young woman who realized too late that true love was standing right in front of her, but she let it slip away.
Women who strike a gracious balance between accepting men as they are—admittedly rough around the edges—yet gently prod them to be their best self might find a true knight after all, or at least a knight-in-the-making. We all would do well to learn this lesson about looking for the best in the man or woman right in front of us.
In a chapter titled “Finding True Love,” Jillian Straus, author of Unhooked Generation, tells the stories of several couples who seem to have found what we all yearn for—a love with staying power, a romance that stands the test of time. She tells the story of Clark and Sophia, a couple so right for each other, so madly in love, other people gaze at them with envy. Yet in the early days of their romance, Sophia almost gave up on the relationship, thinking Clark wasn’t her “type.” Paralyzed by making a wrong choice and the fear of divorce, for a long time Sophia resisted how right Clark was for her. After talking with a professional counselor, Sophia realized that while she’d been waiting for Prince Charming, a real man had shown up instead. “Once I got over my fear, I looked at Clark through new eyes,” Sophia told Straus. “Love doesn’t choose you. You choose love. Someone doesn’t just show up on your doorstep, whether it is Tom Cruise or Edward Norton or whomever your fantasy man is, and you fall in love. I truly thought when the perfect man showed up, I would just feel all those things. But we do it for ourselves. If you have your walls up—fear and skepticism—you just won’t fall head over heels. No one can bring it out if you are not open to it. Once I learned that, everything changed.”1
We do ourselves a favor—and open ourselves up to the possibility of true love—when we drop our defenses, shred our checklist, and start seeing people as God does, with all the potential they possess.
1Jillian Straus, Unhooked Generation (New York: Hyperion, 2006), 209-19.
A.J. Kiesling is the author of Where Have All the Good Men Gone? (Harvest House) and the novel Skizzer (Revell). A religion writer for Publishers Weekly, she has written more than a dozen books.
You can reach her at www.ajkiesling.com.
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